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coveries whose consequences are not yet exhausted after more
than a century. On 1 March 1829, Galois published his first
paper, on continued fractions. This contains no hint of the
Irreat things he had done, but it served to announce him to his
fellow students as no mere scholar but an inventive mathe-
The leading French mathematician of the time was Cauchy.
In fertility of invention Cauchy has been equalled by but few:
and as we have seen, the mass of his collected works is exceeded
in bulk only by the outputs of Euler and Cayley,* the most
prolific mathematicians of history. Whenever the Academy of
Sciences wished an authoritative opinion oh the merits of a
mathematical work submitted for its consideration it called
upon Cauchy. As a rule he was a prompt and just referee. But
occasionally he lapsed. Unfortunately the occasions of his lapses
were the most important of all. To Cauchy's carelessness
mathematics is indebted for two of the major disasters in its
history: the neglect of Galois and the shabby treatment of Abel.
For the latter Cauchy was only partly to blame, but for
the inexcusable laxity in Galois* case Cauchy alone is respons-
Galois had saved the fundamental discoveries he had made
up to the age of seventeen for a memoir to be submitted to the
Academy. Cauchy promised to present this, but he forgot. To
put the finishing touch to his ineptitude he lost the author's
abstract. That was the last Galois ever heard of Cauchy's
generous promise. This was only the first of a series of similar
disasters which fanned the thwarted boy's sullen contempt of
academies and academicians into a fierce hate against the whole
of the stupid society in which he was condemned to live.
In spite of his demonstrated genius the harassed boy was not
even now left to himself at school. The authorities gave Mm no
peace to harvest the rich field of his discoveries, but pestered
him to distraction with petty tasks and goaded him to open
revolt by their everlasting preachings and punishments. StiiJ
* That is, so far as actually published work is concerned up to 1930.
Euler undoubtedly will surpass Cayley in bulk when the full edition
of his works is finally printed.